“Who do we exclude from our fictions? Who do we include in our desires?” — Tentative Collective

Architects appear increasingly to be getting interested in the politics of public space. The 36-hour Factory of Thought event at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin is therefore inscribed in a larger movement towards social awareness as a key value in architecture practice. Regardless of its successes or failures, the 15th edition of the Venice Biennale Reporting from the Front, curated by Alejandro Arevena, provides the latest solid evidence of this move. Although such a shift both in the practices and questions encountered by architects can only be a positive shift, what is too often missing from the conversation is the crucial need to question the very nature of public space itself: not only the way it is made and used, but the broader societal vision that it represents and reinforces. A useful starting point, then, is to examine what we mean when we say ‘public’, before we move on to ‘space’, the material that as architects, urban planners and spatial practitioners, we may dissect more comfortably.